DWJ and the Cello (was Re: Neat carpenters)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sun Jan 25 16:53:31 EST 2004

Charlie wrote back on 21st January:

>I was talking to a bookshop owner today, who turned out to have known DWJ
>some years back when they were both in the same music group. Seems DWJ
>played the cello. Is this generally known? Kind of casts an interesting
>light on *Fire and Hemlock*.

I chanced to mention this to DWJ today, and she told me the following and
told me to pass it on to the list as being of possible interest to people
who had noticed the cello in her work.

As a child, she was declared "unmusical" by her mother, and never allowed
to have any sort of music lesson.  Even at school, they "let" her miss
music classes on her mother's say-so, thinking that they were doing Diana a
kindness by not making her do something she was no good at.  In fact she
loved, and still loves, music.

When she was quite small, she knew a girl who had a scaled-down model of a
cello, and was given lessons on it by the local vicar or some similar
person.  Often this girl, who was entirely uninterested in the cello, would
fail to turn up.  Diana loved the noise the cello made, and wistfully
wondered whether, if somehow she could get her hands on the instrument, by
some absence of mind or oversight the vicar might not notice that she
rather than his proper pupil had turned up for the lesson, and teach her

It never happened, of course.

Her love for the cello lasted and she went on occasionally wisting after
playing one, and a long time later, after she had written *Fire and
Hemlock*, she mentioned to one of her neighbours that she did wish she had
learnt to play the cello when she was a child.

The neighbour, whom Diana describes as "small and feisty and sometimes
likely to fasten her teeth in your ankle" immediately said "Well do it now
then!" in a ferocious sort of way, organised the loan of a cello from one
of her friends and cello lessons from another, and before she knew where
she was there was Diana with a cello in her house and an obligation to
learn to play it.

She had to stop when her back began really to collapse; she claims she was
never very good, but she did very much enjoy it anyway.

She says that she is deeply ashamed that in *Fire and Hemlock* she
committed a terrible sin, because at one point she has a cello being stood
on its spike leaning against a chair, and she discovered too late, after
the book had been published, that if you do that in real life the cello
stays upright for exactly as long as you go on looking at it, and the
moment you turn away it falls inexorably sideways and stoves itself in on
the floor.  Then it looks reproachful, and is rather expensive to mend.

After imparting which DWJ curtseyed gracefully in the general direction of
the list (which is quite something to watch when the person doing it is
sitting in an armchair!) and grinned.


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